Wednesday 30 March 2016

Melvin Rhodes in Trump mode

Melvin Rhodes is the United Church of God resident expert on world affairs. A couple of excerpts from his most recent blog post, which you can read for yourself here.

Well, I'm grizzled enough to be classified as 'old' but sure as hades know no such thing. I for one am delighted to rub shoulders on a daily basis with people from very different backgrounds. What does he mean by "mixed race"? Is Mel still fettered by the nonsense taught by Herb Armstrong about interracial marriage? Mixed religions? What does that even mean when we're dealing with a guy who believes Roman Catholicism is the great false church and Protestants are her whoring daughters.

The mellifluous Mel continues.

Dear, sweet lord, is this guy serious?

If you want a reason why UCG isn't connecting in its efforts to reach the public, here you have one. They are simply incapable of moving beyond a version of Tea Party rhetoric - based, one expects, in the exceptionalist fantasies they regard as "prophecy". Multiculturalism is bad, liberals and leftists are to blame, the current pope's emphasis on compassion and mercy is somehow less Christian, in the Rhodesian world-view, than the lunacy that unleashed the crusades.

For a long time, I've maintained that UCG is a more benign form of COGism. I suppose that's still true, but it still has venom in its bite.

Mel would, I imagine, get along famously with Mark Armstrong.


Christopher McNeely said...

One could only consider UCG a more benign form of COGism if one fell for their frustratingly-rote manner in which they present their Armstrongism in the guise of an American Rotarian. Anyone who thinks UCG has watered down their Armstrongism is deluded.

UCG was founded by ambitious WCG ministers who were almost all were kept at bay by the Tkach/Feazell leadership in Pasadena during the 80s. These ministers rightly saw a general watering-down in matters prophetic (and doctrinal, but that's another matter). Since many of these ministers still clung to British-Israelism and Prophecy throughout the 80s, they were often kept far from HQ as possible, only allowed to write the occasional article in one of the magazines to keep them pacified while WCG was trying to shift away from Armstrongism privately by sending out articles in the Pastor General's Report about such doctrinal issues as the Trinity. This worked mostly because WCG Pastors were paid quite well and lived good lives. Until 1995.

Suddenly these doctrinal exiles had to make a decision. The outcome they knew was coming for years finally forced their hand. But you have to consider who was left in WCG at 1995 to understand the sociocultural makeup of UCG (and its pathetic splinters). It was a nice trick to raise those of us who grew up WCG in the 80s to think that all of the wackos from the old days had left WCG with Flurry, et al. 'Those' people were crazy. Those of us left in WCG were 'normal'. Now, alongside the general watering-down of the WCG message in the 80s, which ministers were privately seething about, came an accompanying opening up to the greater American culture. Whereas WCGers prior to Reagan's election took a firmly antagonistic stance against the general American culture, once HWA died and Tkach Sr. took over, this stance loosened. Quickly. Sure there were still 'banned' films and YOU special sessions on the evils of heavy metal music, but generally this became a period of WCG 'glasnost'.

One of the biggest reasons for this openness to culture was simple: the ministers were really hitting their earning stride and many of their children were roughly the same age across the country. Their incomes meant they started to appreciate many of the 'mod cons' like personal computers, the latest car (via the extravagant Fleet program), an extra week of 'vacation' before or after the FOT in an exotic locale. The fact that their kids were all coming of age in the era of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Springsteen, MTV, Back To The Future, etc. meant that pressure to conform was also being applied from below (i.e. the youth). Hence the focus on the Youth magazine in the 80s.

(continued in next post)

Christopher McNeely said...

So by Tkach Sr. gave the 'sermon heard around the WCG world' in Big Sandy in 1995 (to which I was eyewitness), you had a WCG that had steadily, almost unconsciously, capitulated in some way to a more 'normal' appearance to the outside world. In some ways, the groups that split from WCG all get stuck in the cultural moment they split from. It's why Flurry's group, for instance, always seemed 'crazy' to those of us who grew up under Tkach...Flurry was trapped in a pre-glasnost mentality that was simply not possible for those WCG ministers who formed UCG since the latter had subtly shifted their worldview and their cultural stances in the 80s.

The ministers who formed UCG had a lot to lose, financially. They had built very comfortable lives over the 80s and the sudden prospect of its loss was devastating. But it's important to note that NOTHING in their doctrinal/theological positions had changed: they were sincere in their opposition to the Tkach/Feazell evangelicalism. They were committed to maintaining every WCG doctrine (though roughly codified around 1986) but, and this is key, they could only do it in the way they knew how: by presenting themselves as normal, middle-upper-middle class American men who read Stephen Covey, followed world events in The Economist, had traveled the world, were early-adopters of the latest technology, listened to popular music, and generally didn't seem like wackos at all (as they would have in 1955 or '65 or even '75).

I got to know Melvin Rhodes fairly well after UCG formed. He was, along with my father, one of the few WCGers who had carried the torch for British-Israelism during the dark ages of Tkach. I knew most of the men who formed UCG and it's often struck me how different they seemed in '95 from how they were in '85 or earlier. But it's not so odd when one considers what's happened in America since 1995. The astounding popularity of the Left Behind books in America alerted me to something I'd ignored, in part because I didn't think it possible: that end-times speculation was no longer something for the cult fringe. It was a legitimately-mainstream belief. By the 2000s, up to 40% of Americans believed in Jesus Christ's imminent return. Armageddonists like Michele Bachmann could run for President. Suddenly it seemed that all fringe Christianity had accommodated itself to the culture.

And this is UCGs biggest problem: in a culture where crazy religious beliefs are easily found and no longer considered radical or counter-cultual, what sets them apart? I'd be willing to wager that the men who run UCG are privately-flummoxed as to why they aren't growing precisely because they internalized a mentality during the 80s and early 90s that told them they were no longer oddballs, that they had softened the blunt edges of Armstrongism, without changing the doctrines, in order to appeal to a different age. But they're stuck in a bind: sure, they may look 'normal' to their target demographic. But all cults/sects look normal now. Everyone but the Amish and Westboro Baptist demons has made a deal with Americanism, so why would anyone join UCG? Melvin Rhodes might be spouting Trump-like nonsense on his tiny blog, but isn't the fact that a guy like Trump can seriously compete for the Presidency a sign that guys like Rhodes are no longer the prophetic voices they so desperately want to be heard as?

Crazy is the new normal in America. And a benign tumor is still cancer.

Pam said...

Christopher-- An exceptionally calm, thoughtful, pragmatic and common sense explanation and evaluation of the background of what makes UCG tick these days. I was never in UCG myself, but over the past twenty years I've had a number of friends and acquaintances who were present or former UCG ministers (and some ministerial wives as well), including Mel. Seems to me you have nailed it down well.

It's been my observation, by the way, that a number of UCG ministers wives have been long-sufferingly tolerant at best and downright grouchy at worst about all the goings-on their husbands have been involved in. They have a very low tolerance for church politics.

Christopher McNeely said...

"They (ministers' wives in UCG) have a very low tolerance for church politics."

That may be true. But they seem to have an awfully-high tolerance for the lifestyle they enjoy on the backs of onerous and suspect tithes, as well as the deference their position in the local congregation still elicits. It's not as if women in WCG were ever encouraged to take much of an interest in their husbands' doctrinal/political disputes.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pam said...

Christopher wrote...

"...they seem to have an awfully-high tolerance for the lifestyle they enjoy..."

You misunderstood my comment, or didn't notice the "limitation" I put...

" ***a number of*** UCG ministers wives..."

I did not in the slightest mean to imply "the average wife" or "most wives," or anything of the kind. :-) I meant to refer to "a number of"... the "number of" women I happened to know personally. Some of whom were wives of EX-UCG ministers.

Christopher McNeely said...

Apologies, Pam. I thought your final paragraph referred to current UCG members. It wasn't clear you only meant ex-members.

Pam said...

"Apologies, Pam. I thought your final paragraph referred to current UCG members. It wasn't clear you only meant ex-members."

Thanks. Let me make this clear too... not all "ministers" of UCG, both past and present, have been or continue to be recipients of the "typical" level of perks of the "average" UCG Privileged Pastor level ministry that you are obviously thinking of. This would include "local elder" ministers who didn't have the prestige, but did at times have the responsibilities of service, of men "above" them.

Christopher McNeely said...

Pam: my playing fast and loose with terminology cuts me again...yes, I misspoke by referring to 'ministers' alone when I should have said Pastors. But I took it as a given that anyone who spent even two (interminable) hours in WCG/UCG would have understood I was referring to the senior ministry who didn't have to hold down real jobs. My post was intended to illustrate the mindset of the men who founded UCG, none of whom were local elders, etc.

Gavin R said...

Impressive analysis. Thanks Christopher.

Christopher McNeely said...

Thanks, Gavin. I learned the hard way.

Pam said...

"My post was intended to illustrate the mindset of the men who founded UCG, none of whom were local elders,"

I understood what you were mainly referring to. I just happened to have had more personal contact outside that crowd when I got on the Internet for the first time in 1996, after being out of the COG world since 1988, and ran into and made friends with some UCG folks on some of the COG forums. Including Jeff Osborn, who died in 2011...some of the key founding meetings of UCG were held in his father's basement in Indiana. (His brother in law was Guy Swenson, a pastor-ranked fellow who was deeply involved in the founding, and thus those meetings were in Guy's father-in-laws' basement.) Jeff, who never received pay or perks from UCG, and the little congregation he served left UCG in 1997 or so.

Christopher McNeely said...

Pam: I don't think we're in disagreement.

I knew Guy Swenson and his family quite well. He was ordained but not a Pastor. In fact, my father, Darris McNeely was Guy's Pastor in Indianapolis at the time of the UCG founding.

Pam said...

Christopher... I'm a little surprised to hear Guy wasn't pastor-ranked at that point in time. The first I ever knew of him was when we attended our last Day of Atonement service in WCG in 1978, on the way to the Feast. I think it was in Toledo. He gave the sermon, and I just assumed they wouldn't have assigned a non-pastor-ranked guy (pun intended) for a regional Holy Day sermon. His name was just unusual enough that I never forgot it--even though I don't really remember hearing of it again until 1996.

Now that you mention it, though, I have been aware since 1996 that he had owned his own successful business for many years, so that in itself would have made it impossible for him to serve as full time pastor.

Unknown said...

Christopher (CM) and all:

I will comment on a few of the statements that you made above:

CM:They were committed to maintaining every WCG doctrine (though roughly codified around 1986)
ME: The early Tkach era prior to 1995 and post 1986 actually had some pretty radical changes to the HWA stances. For example, the makeup doctrine, the ability to go to doctors, birthdays, and several others. Nearly all of the UCG current pastors were good with those changes, but those were large steps for the time compared to HWA.

CM: And this is UCGs biggest problem: in a culture where crazy religious beliefs are easily found and no longer considered radical or counter-cultual, what sets them apart?
ME: It is not really prophetic understandings that sets UCG apart. What sets them apart, MIGHTILY, is the observance of the Saturday Sabbath, non-Easter and Xmas celebration, and the non eating of Pork and other foods, and the keeping of the annual Holy Days. These are mighty differences vs. nearly any other Christian denomination, and I believe you are discounting just how unique this offsets the UCG from other religions.

The biggest cultural problem IMHO with the UCG is the non-enfranchisement and empowerment of its membership, which includes a hierarchal structure now as a TOP DOWN oligarchy , (an improvement over HWA), but still an elite , unaccountable and unelected paid ministry. It is indeed a good old boys club that does not allow for creative destruction, choice, or any type of cleansing or feedback mechanism to properly respond to the marketplace of its members or even its non-member readership or viewers.

The centralization of its money and capital to a central location, the consolidation of its power centrally, makes it a quasi-communist system, with a ruling Politburo. Such systems do not respond quickly enough to the marketplace, subsidize dying or inefficient programs, and discourage individual initiative, invention and entrepreneurship.

Members should have the right to elect their own boards, (not dummy boards) with lay members, keep money local, and have the ability to dismiss pastors when they are not responsive to the needs, dreams , or service of the local congregation. This is how many regular Protestant churches around the country operate.

Like all communist systems, they eventually implode due to excessive outlays and uneconomic policies that lead to slow or negative growth. The long term legacy costs of retirements and health care of the UCG ministry, and the retirements and deaths of its membership who are also aging, will create a cash crunch at some point in the future.

I predict that when this time comes, there will be a potential Balkanization of the UCG as each individual paid minister will make a run to the gates with as many local followers as possible. There will be an economic tilt point, perhaps within the next 7 to 10 years.

UCG just simply does not have the mass to support a paid ministry. The paid ministry, although they think they are "special", gifted, or privileged , are simply not that remarkable. A system of unpaid local elders would work just fine, and was implemented in GTAs CGI for many years. There is an entrenchment in UCG, and a pork barrel politic at work .

I think that UCG finds kinship with fundamentalist evangelical politics because of the commonality of sexual mores, and conservative outlooks on "general worldliness". It likely is more in the mode of a Ted Cruz than Trump.

Although racism was at play in the WCG, I would hesitate to put multiculturalism in the same mindset or collective with it as you did CM. Im hard pressed to find anywhere, or any time , where multiculturalism has really worked in the real world for prolonged periods of time. Around the world, we see succession movements of peoples around the world, such as in Spain, the Brexit, and many more.

Thanks for writing. Im curious to ask... what does your dad think about you writing on a forum such as this?

Christopher McNeely said...

Pam: Yes, by the time Guy Swenson moved to Indy in the early 90s, he was a business owner, though he still assisted with sermons, etc. in the local congregation. I really don't remember the back story as to why he was no longer a full time pastor.

Christopher McNeely said...

Connie: Lots of good stuff here...

As for doctrinal changes: makeup, seeing doctors, birthdays are not Christian doctrines and were just the whims of a lecherous, vainglorious pedophile. I'm hard-pressed to see how allowing WCG members to live through serious illnesses by seeking medical attention counts as a doctrinal change of the same ilk as defeating Arianism or Gnosticism or arguing over grace vs. works, etc.

You claim that Saturday observance and holy days and pork abstention are the most unique drawing points for UCG/COGs. I'd beg to differ. There are over 18 million 7th Day Adventists in the world, the 12th largest denomination globally. Jehovah's Witnesses, who also vastly outnumber COGers, also abstain from 'pagan' holidays. And there are still Jews who observe OT dietary laws and holy days. Which is as it should be. Since those things were made obsolete by the early Christian church (save the sub-Calvinist conspiracy theories for someone who thinks Samuele Bacchiocchi was a 'scholar'). The Council of Jerusalem took care of this once and for all. Prophecy was the biggest draw for HWA, by a long shot. Now that nearly half of Americans believe in some similar nonsense, that has faded away.

As for the hierarchical yadda yadda...I've heard this stuff since UCG formed. While I think UCG deserves to fail, I will say that the men who founded it spent a long time trying to come up with a form of governance that was not hierarchical like WCG. Your criticisms of UCG sound like boilerplate 1950s anti-communism, so I'm not sure what you're even addressing since UCG, like all American religion it seems, is firmly on board with the neoliberal marketplace approach to religion: advertise the gospel to put paying customers in seats. If that sounds like the early Christian church to you, then we must have different bibles. I for one wouldn't want to be part of any church that was responsive to people's 'dreams' and comparing UCG to other American Protestant churches who operate according to the whims of the sociocultural beliefs of the members seems bound to fail once those same sociocultural winds shift. The German Protestant churches of the 1930s also responded positively to the 'dreams' of the Volk and that didn't work out so well.

As for your prediction of UCG running out of kidding. There's nobody to fill the leadership gap. While I have firsthand knowledge of how 'unspecial' UCG ministers are, the idea that the younger generations could fill those shoes is insane. The men who run UCG were never properly schooled in theology, hermeneutics, Biblical languages, church history, etc. The next generation doesn't even know what those terms mean.

Re: Multiculturalism. I can imagine a conversation between two Roman Patricians in the 3rd Century re: Monotheism: "I'm hard pressed, Bultavius, to think of any culture where monotheism has really worked in the real world. I expect this whole Christian nonsense is just a fad invented by these meddlesome social justice warriors who seem to legitimately care for the poor and the sick and the meek. Surely our vision of life as an eternal struggle of all against all, with our side winning, naturally, will eventually win out over this crucified Jew and his rabble followers who actually think they can change the world...". Galatians 3:28 seems more relevant to Christians than any contemporary Americanism that would prefer to go back to a time when blacks and gays and women and Catholics and Jews and Hispanics knew their place and didn't start thinking that Christ might have died for them, too.

As for what my father thinks of me writing on a blog that is critical of all COGs...I really don't care. I don't text him before getting online.

Anonymous said...

with all this talk of the start up of UCG I find it surprising no one mentions David Hulme the first president. Does nobody know anything about this man? I can't find any info on him on any of the anti cog blogs since his "friends" Andrews, Orchard and Nathan jumped ship.

Minimalist said...

Can't help noticing the biggest advocates of "multiculturalism" buy cars & electronics from (now outcompeting) monocultures (Japan Korea China) and also avoid living in the ghettoes their post-modern multicultural political doctrine has created?

Okay, I'll hang-up now and take my lumps over the air.

Minimalist said...

The Council of Jerusalem took care of this once and for all(McNeely)

You talk like that is an historical fact.
Acts is more likely 2nd century Proto-Catholic fiction
attempting reconcile the Gospels & Pauline antinomianism

Pam said...

Minimalist: I'm guessing you assume folks will know what in the heck you are talking about. But I'm not ashamed to admit I haven't a clue. So could you clarify your minimalist comments a bit?

What is your definition of "multiculturalism"? I thought it just meant that we have a country where people from a wide variety of backgrounds live. I live in Savannah Georgia. Walking the streets here I see people of every color and mixed colors, wearing all kinds of clothing styles, some of which appear to be related to an ethnic culture. Our grocery stores have specialty aisles with asian, latino, kosher, and other styles of food. Makes it convenient for me to find the matzos and the tortillas.

I hear a variety of languages as I wander the aisles, although most folks seem to be able to get along just fine at the checkouts with the cashiers. Everyone is polite and pleasant, lots of smiles and friendliness. My grandkids attend an art college here with kids from all over the world, and from professors from all over the world. All seems to run pretty smoothly. Is there something I'm missing?

And could you explain the reference to ghettos? American cities have had ghettos since the earliest years. There were HUGE ghettos particularly around the turn of the last century. It has always been my understanding that people who could afford to NOT live in a ghetto lived elsewhere when they could...unless prejudice and redlining kept them out of certain areas. What created those ghettos, and was it somehow inherently different from what created the ghettos you are concerned about now?

As for buying from other countries...I guess I assumed that was because they are able to charge lower prices because they pay their workers less in most cases. Did you have a solution for that other than just paying Americans lower wages too? I fail to see how this is related to whatever your definition of "multiculturalism" is.

I am dead serious here... I really do not understand the points you are attempting to make. You seem to feel that your words will irritate some people, thus the reference to "lumps." But it's difficult to be irritated just by cryptic comments. :-)

Christopher McNeely said...

“You talk like that is an historical fact.
Acts is more likely 2nd century Proto-Catholic fiction
attempting reconcile the Gospels & Pauline antinomianism”

I think we can make a distinction between saying there was such a thing as The Council of Jerusalem which somehow dealt with the reconciliation between Jewish and Gentile Christian practice and not meaning “the Acts of the Apostles is a divinely-inspired book in the Bible that is materially-factual in every way”. I’m no fundamentalist, so I read the NT as a narrative, not as an inerrant historical document. As an example, I decided to read each Gospel account of the resurrection/empty tomb on Easter. Obviously, each Gospel differs in little details about the event. But each Gospel does not differ on the event of the empty tomb itself. For a Christian, it’s really not important whether there was a strange dude in a white tunic sitting in the empty tomb or not. What matters is the resurrection. Same with the Council of Jerusalem. Contrary to HWA and his deluded cheerleaders, there’s good evidence that early Christians weren’t sure how to act now that their world had been utterly changed by the resurrection. Some kept on going with Jewish practices. But there’s a good bit in Robert Louis Wilkens’ book ‘The Christians as the Romans Saw Them’ about the 1st or early 2nd (I forget which, but it’s early on) Christians being called ‘cannibals’ in Roman documents due to rumors that they ate flesh and blood in their services.

So obviously there had to be some way of reconciling these two disparate religious forms. COGers opt for the ludicrous conspiracies inherited from Calvinism that have the evil Roman Catholic church eradicating all ‘true’ Sabbatarians, etc. in the 1st/2nd Centuries. This nonsense doesn’t even warrant debate (nor does it give much credit to Jesus, who claims in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit will teach you...if the kind of lunacy HWA inherited from Scottish Presbyterianism is true then it doesn’t say much for the power of Christ or the Holy Spirit that it could be so easily squashed within a generation). Christianity was a new thing that demanded new practice.

The Easter story is a great you mentioned in another post, Gavin, using the Greek word Pascha for Easter helps frame the interpretation immensely. Suddenly, instead of embarrassing ourselves by linking Easter with Ishtar and other such nonsense, we can see, if we know how to interpret, how Christ’s resurrection fulfills and changes the Passover. The symbols are plain: Lamb/Pascha, blood on door post/Christ on cross, a Last Supper that takes the old and yet makes it new. My point is that whether or not the Council of Jerusalem happened as Acts claims is beside the point unless one demands every clause in the Bible be literally true like a mathematical fact. Something like it had to happen pretty quickly because the early church just was not a bunch of Jews who suddenly stopped their ancient liturgies (which looked a lot like an Eastern Orthodox or old school Roman Catholic or even Anglo-Catholic liturgy), changed nothing in their doctrines/practices despite the appearance/resurrection of the longed-for Messiah, and suddenly started meeting in rented spaces to listen to poorly-educated men drone on for 2-3 hours while proof-texting the OT.

I’m not sure if the term ‘proto-Catholic fiction’ is pejorative or not, so I won’t respond to that. I do know that it’s a fact that scholars do not agree on when exactly Acts was written, just as nobody knows for sure when the Gospels were written. Everybody’s going on some kind of faith here. The most important thing is who we decide to trust.

Minimalist said...

Hi Pam, you didn't mention which brand of car you drive:
That would help support/refute my thesis.

Christopher McNeely said...

(sniff) Smells like Mencius Moldbug in here suddenly...

Unknown said...

CM Wrote:Your criticisms of UCG sound like boilerplate 1950s anti-communism, so I'm not sure what you're even addressing since UCG, like all American religion it seems, is firmly on board with the neoliberal marketplace approach to religion: advertise the gospel to put paying customers in seats

ME: There is no mechanism in place to have ministers be fired or replaced, and they are unaccountable to their congregations for behavior, talent, work ethic, or job performance. UCG has created serious firewalls to make sure that the everyday lay member does NOT have a voice in such matters. Why are UCG lay members denied the right to vote or enfranchisement? UCG lay members are the "paying customers" , but tell me anywhere in the "real world" where customers are not allowed feed back, choice, and free market reaction to bad product??

Christopher McNeely said...

This isn't something I think about. I think desiring the church to be run on the very historically and culturally specific phenomenon of American capitalism and consumerism is a flawed desire, to say the least.

Pam said...

Minimalist: I'll say it again... I haven't a CLUE what your thesis is. Two sentence glib remarks with undefined words are like whispering into a fog. I don't doubt it's clear to you in your own mind what you think, but unless you are inclined to want to actually communicate it in enough tangible form to give it shape out in the real world, it sure isn't clear to me. Ill-defined buzzwords do not a thesis make.

Unknown said...

CM: Please explain then your view on how a church should be ran, and how should its leadership develops and is held accountable? What is your model for "church government"?

Christopher McNeely said...

I don't have one. That's the kind of thing that keeps fundamentalists up at night, not me.

Christopher McNeely said...

Though I will say that American consumerism, mixed with radical Protestantism, has created a culture filled with Christians (and non, obviously) who feel that there is no higher authority than themselves and that their 'feelings' or 'desires' are the final arbiter of what is true and false. In religion, as in intellectual endeavors, this creates a large number of people who lack all humility before hierarchy of any kind and this rampant consumerist mentality, atomised and impossible to govern, lashes out at intellectual or hierarchical authority of any kind simply on principle. Christianity isn't a brand, the Cross is not a marketing tool, and the Gospel is not a catchphrase designed to make individual church shoppers feel like they made the right purchase and weren't suckered. Too many Americans equate Christianity with very specific American practices and beliefs that simply make no sense in a historical sense (speaking of the history of Christianity) or across the globe presently (i.e. Coptic Christians in Egypt or those in Pakistan who were just murdered probably don't worry too much about whether or not their demands are being met by their local about first world problems). This is why I've had to admit that HWA wasn't a complete huckster, as someone like L. Ron Hubbard undoubtedly was: Herb was that perfect combination (think Reagan) of guileless belief in American goodness, no matter what, and a firm belief that making tons of money is a nearly sacramental calling of all good Christian Americans. There was simply no contradiction in his mind between selling a Gospel and making money.

Anonymous said...

I agree with McNeely when he cites economics. While the economics of the WCG may not be on the surface, I think it lurks just beneath:

1. To make money in a capitalist model you usually have to have a product. And the product has to be differentiated from other products. Herbert created his product in a library in Des Moines and, lo and behold, it was effectively differentiated.

2. He advertised this product on the radio and those people who found the product appealing bought in. Hebert became wealthy and had more freedom to rule over his organization than CEOs even dream about.

3. Melvin Rhodes is hawking the same product. It still retains its money making power.

4. The astute ministers who saw the money making power of this product and all the benefits it conferred on them threatened formed the UCG. Joe Junior was going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

5. GCI knew that the product made money but abandoned it for a different product, Trinitarianism, but this product was not sufficiently differentiated. It is not a "Money Doctrine." This led to a financial debacle.

6. Herbert's original product will always exist. It will never become extinct because there are people willing to buy it in the marketplace of religious ideas. It serves their many and varied needs. Whereas the words of Melvin Rhodes would appall most of us, for some small class of people, this is exactly what they want their church to declare. That way they can have "God" behind their non-Christian ideas. They believe they have been specially called by God but, in fact, they have recruited a God to themselves and their odd ideas. But the God they recruited is simply a figment of Herbert's imagination.


Christopher McNeely said...

" That way they can have "God" behind their non-Christian ideas. They believe they have been specially called by God but, in fact, they have recruited a God to themselves and their odd ideas. But the God they recruited is simply a figment of Herbert's imagination."

Amen to that. Idols aren't just graven images...

Stephen said...

"They believe they have been specially called by God but, in fact, they have recruited a God to themselves and their odd ideas."

I don't know how many times I have heard regular, relatively normal, run-of-the-mill christians, both inside the COGs and without, say things like, "God wants..." or "God desires..." or claim that under certain circumstances God feels variously happy, sad, or angry. I understand what their thought processes are, how they arrived at such questionable conclusions, and why they seem so reasonable to them because for a long time, I used to say such things. I was not a huckster like Herbert Armstrong, Dave Pack, Ron Weinland, Gerald Flurry, or Bob Thiel, who claimed to be some sort of "apostle," "prophet," or perhaps both, and neither are they. No, I am simply talking about regular laymembers who claim no special connections, powers, or clairvoyance.

But lets examine these sets of claims from another point of view.

If I were to tell you that I could simply read the minds of other people, who I encounter in life, you might assume I was delusional or worse, and rightly so. This is clearly the stuff of fiction. And yet, if I were to claim to be able to read the mind of an incorporeal being who supposedly exists outside the universe, many will see this far, far more outrageous claim as being perfectly reasonable. Though even the scriptures they take to be holy appear to say this second claim is an impossible one (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I posit that these laymembers, such as I once was, have recruited a god to themselves, and to their ideas, and even to their emotions, every bit as much as the hucksters have. And while I suspect that many of the hucksters are insincere, I am as certain as I can be that these laymembers could not be more sincere. They are simply making a mistake. I know, it's a mistake I used to make. I know how easy it is to make it. It's as common as water and as old as our species. And that, together with overactive agency detection is all that is necessary to explain the 12,000 years of irrational belief that we know of.

Now, some might ask me how I know that "god," a deity that is often left annoyingly generic, does not exist. I am not making such an exhaustive claim, even though that's exactly the claim many will hear. They will argue, usually from origins, that a "god" must exist as a first-mover. Though it isn't necessary, I'll just grant it for the sake of argument. Even so, this only gets you to deism, which, I'm not opposed to btw. Who ever perpetrated evil on behalf of the sleeping god of deism? But this is where that previously generic "god" suddenly gets firmed up, acquires a name, and perhaps even desires and emotions. No. Just no.